Protesting BOC collectors down to 13

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - One of 15 Customs district collectors challenging in court their transfer to the Department of Finance (DOF) has resigned from her post.

Following the resignation of Collector 5 Imelda Cruz, the number of petitioners before the Manila Regional Trial Court has dwindled to 13 since former X-Ray Inspection Service chief Carmelita Talusan backed out last week.

Talusan has reported to the Customs Policy Research Office (CPRO) on the sixth floor of the DOF building.

Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon said yesterday Cruz, who was previously with the Enforcement Group, resigned effective Oct. 4 without stating any reason.

Cruz submitted yesterday her “Notice of Withdrawal of Petition” before the Manila Regional Trial Court hearing the district collectors’ petition of declaratory relief.

Customs sources said Cruz had been planning to resign since last year.

As of noon yesterday, Customs sources had not received word of other petitioners giving up the fight against the implementation of Customs Personnel Order (CPO) B 189-2013 ordering collectors 5 and 6 to transfer to the CPRO.

Cruz said she was giving President Aquino a free hand to undertake his reform agenda at the Bureau of Customs.

It was reported that the DOF-Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) would be conducting a lifestyle and tax liability check on some Customs personnel.

Biazon said it was possible that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) would be tapped to assist the DOF in the conduct of the lifestyle check.

“It is but logical, they have the expertise, they have the capabilities to help doing background checks but I do not know if they would be tapped,” he said.

The 13 remaining collectors fighting their transfer to the CPRO are Ronnie Silvestre, Edward dela Cuesta, Rogel Gatchalian, Lilibeth Sandag, Raymond Ventura, Ma. Liza Torres, Arnel Alcarez, Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang, Francis Agustin Erpe, Carlos So, Marietta Zamoranos, Arifeles Carreon, and Romalino Valdez.

Biazon said the BOC will cooperate with the RIPS investigation and provide them with the needed documents.

He intends to meet with the 13 collectors within the week.

The 17-day extended temporary restraining order (TRO) of Judge Felicitas Laron-Cacanindin prevents the BOC from compelling the 13 to transfer to the CPRO.

Of the 27 collectors 5 and 6, at least 12 of them have already reported to the DOF.

Biazon said if the DOF and BOC lose the case, he would use the argument of petitioners that they are under the BOC and they can be assigned anywhere within the agency.

“We would find a position or assignment commensurate to their qualification and capability,” he said.

Biazon said a new designation does not necessarily mean petitioners would be heading a port; it could be a division or an office.

The 13 senior district collectors would not be given jobs below their rank, he added.

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the 13 Customs collectors need not have filed the case as they were just moved to another place.

“You did not lose your status, you did not lose your rank, you were not demoted, so what did you lose?” he asked.

Lacierda said the Customs collectors did not suffer irreparable injury.

“The question now to the tribunal is what irreparable injury happened to them?” he asked. “What did they lose that they filed a petition claiming that ‘we will be injured irreparably’.”

In a statement, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima urged the collectors to support the administration’s reforms and to accept their orders “with nobility.”

“The Manila RTC’s most recent decision serves those who resist reform and cling desperately to the old ways,” he said.

“This runs counter to President Aquino’s agenda to eradicate the predators that plague customs; who prey not just on businesses but on our balikbayans returning from abroad who are hassled for their personal effects.”

Lacierda defends Uvero

Meanwhile, Lacierda believes Customs Deputy Commissioner Agaton Teodoro Uvero, who allegedly acted as a lawyer for Coca Cola on a tax case involving imports, would inhibit from cases involving parties with which he had a previous connection.

“More important than the professional connection is the point that he should abstain from any case involving his former connections, which we believe he will do,” he said.

Lacierda said Uvero had served as a consultant for agencies with strict selection processes. – With Alexis Romero












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